Thursday, September 29, 2022

Fiction Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor

I am a huge fan of Bianca Marais and loved her first two novels, Hum If You Don't Know the Words (one of my Top 10 of all time!) and If You Want to Make God Laugh. Those were both historical fiction, family/friendship dramas with a good sense of humor, set in South Africa during and just after apartheid. Her third novel, newly released, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor is a complete departure for her, but her excellent writing is here, along with her insights and sense of humor. It's the story of six octogenarian witches trying to save their old manor house and land.

As the novel opens, Ursula wakes with an ominous feeling. Checking all of her usual tools of foretelling the future--tarot cards, palms, and her crystal ball--she sees nothing but disaster ahead. Soon after, an angry mob of men, armed with a wrecking ball instead of torches and pitchforks, arrives at their old manor house, threatening to knock it down. Queenie, the mechanical genius and inventor of the group, admits to the rest of the witches that they've fallen way behind in their mortgage payments. They need an enormous sum of money to save their manor, their distillery, and the beloved forest surrounding them ... and they only have a week to pay. Ivy, another of the witches, has a talent for plants, and Jezebel has unusual sexual talents, while Tabitha is the animal specialist among them. But Tabitha is dead, and her ghost, who can not leave the manor, speaks through her familiar, a crow named Widget. What would happen to Tabitha if the sisterhood had to leave the manor? They are all counting on Ruby, who's been in prison for 30 years, to save them. Ruby is being released in two days and apparently knows some sort of secret that can save them and their home. She is gender-fluid, in the most literal sense of the term, and can morph from male to female and back again. But whatever sent Ruby to prison 30 years ago caused a rift (and Tabby's death). Ruby refused to see any of them when they visited, so will she be willing to save them now? Luckily, given their advanced ages, they have one more person on their side, a fifteen-year-old girl named Persephone, who is a staunch feminist, Tik Tokker, and wants to support the sisterhood. She offers to help them with their social media presence, though the witches have no idea what she's talking about.

That plot description feels way too bland for the liveliness and humor of this very original novel. The author has a wonderful sense of humor that is woven throughout the book, but--as in her earlier novels--she also tackles some serious, real-life issue like aging, feminism, found family, and friendship, all while making you laugh. The very clever story even has parallels to the events of the Salem witch trials. The antics of the aging witches are a whole lot of fun, though their problems are very real. And while you're laughing, she sneaks in so many thoughtful insights about life and aging and family that my book is filled with marked passages I want to remember. Adding to the intrigue of the witches and their powers, the end of many chapters include recipes for cocktails, salves, potions, and tonics, some of which you could actually make and some that have rather unusual ingredients you probably can't get (like rhino urine). All in all, this novel is a fun, sexy romp with suspense, a mystery, and real-life emotions woven into it. It will make you cherish your female friendships. 

400 pages, MIRA

Harlequin Audio

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:


Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge - W (finally!)

Diversity Challenge

R.I.P. Challenge

Fall Into Reading Challenge - Fantasy

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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  1. Oh my goodness, this sounds wonderful -- and hilarious!

  2. This sounds really fun and I also loved her two previous novels.